BookView Interview with Author Peter D. Speers

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.

Recently, we interviewed Peter D. Speers, about his writing and soon-to-be-released, Miracle Man (Read the reveiw here). He has written The Peanut Factory and Julie’s Garden earlier.

Peter D. Speers PhD was born in Cranbrook BC and grew up in a housing project in Vancouver’s south-east side.  He left high school short of a diploma to the great relief of education authorities and at the time, of himself. After nearly two decades of spotty employment as an actor, tree planter, laborer, and failed back-to-the-lander, he applied to college as a mature student eventually earning degrees from the University of Victoria and UBC Okanagan. In retirement he moved to Victoria where he lives with his wife Norma. Miracle Man is his third novel. Look for: The Peanut Factory and Julie’s Garden.

Who and what ultimately inspired you to become a writer?

I was fortunate when in my mid-teens my sister and a couple of her friends allowed me to tag along to a poetry reading held in the back of the Vanguard bookstore in Vancouver. Every Friday night the League for Socialist Action sponsored forums on political issues. The night we went was given over to local poets. Among the readers was a guy named Milton Acorn. His powerful voice and commanding presence blew my mind. I went home charged with the mission to learn to write poems. In my late teens a I self-published a book of poems. While working in Gastown in the late 60’s I published a couple of  articles in the infamous Georgia Straight.  When I moved to the Gulf Islands, I kept my hand in by writing poems and short stories for the Denman Isle. Rag n’ Bone.  During this time, I also wrote a short play which was taken up by the local theatre troupe. It seems as a youth I was infected with a writing bug for which I still haven’t found the cure.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

In a word, yes. I’m more of a thinker than a feeler. I tend towards analytical big picture thinking. None-the-less, my stories are often centered on the events that emotionally move the main characters and as a consequence, motivate change.

Do you try to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I’d have to go with originality as I have very little ability to give people what they want. Just ask my wife. What is original in my stories is the perspective of non-aspirational life. No one’s getting rich, no one is overcoming adversity to win their love or live their dreams. My characters by-n-large are outsiders trying to navigate a world and social conditions they don’t always understand.

Were your parents interested in literature? Did they read a lot? What books did you have in the house?

I grew up in a single parent household. I don’t remember my mom reading much beyond the TV guide. Although, she did leave the odd Micky Spillane lying around.  It was my sister that brought books into the house. Although I did my best to ignore her growing up. Plainly, her influence was more insidious than I was resistant.

How do you begin a book?

I started my first novel, the Peanut Factory as a memoir. A way of telling my kids what it was like growing up in the 1960’s. It’s set primarily in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Gastown in the late 1960’s where I worked as a laborer for the princely sum of $1.50 an hour. I did research by reading old copies Vancouver newspapers including the Georgia Straight. I even rambled the area for a couple of days but when I actually put finger to keyboard, I discovered my memory had plenty of blank spots. So, that’s where fiction took over.

Are any of your characters based on people you know?

You know that’s funny because often I start off with an image of a person that I knew in a past life but, as the process of character development unfolds, I graft on bits and pieces of others, often strangers I’ve seen on the street or overheard in a bar or restaurant. During the first draft these dispirit parts blend into the fully formed character and begin acting and reacting as a whole.

Where did the ideas for this story come from?

The theme of Miracle Man is awakening. Simply put: Sometimes wisdom and insight come to us not through great deliberation but rather through divine intervention. And, with luck our losses, our regrets, our transgressions, might in later years, be put to rest.

What do you hope readers will take away from the story?

There is a strong element of growth through long struggle in my stories. People struggle with themselves and with others. They struggle to make sense of the capricious nature of life itself. I hope readers will recognize in the characters a kinship with their own struggles. A kinship we all share.

Do you have any unfinished books you are working on?

I have bits and pieces of other potential novels nagging at me from my computer. I recently finished Souvenirs an historical family saga that follows two individuals from the “dirty thirties” to the first decade post WW2. It is at the designers getting beautified. I hope to have it out in the next couple of months.

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